15 May 2018

Te Mata Peak row: Iwi treated 'like dumb savages'

1:31 pm on 15 May 2018

The battle to remove a controversial cycling track on Te Mata Peak in the Hawke's Bay has escalated with an iwi leader saying his people are being treated like "dumb savages from the wop-wops".

The controversial walking track up the Eastern side of Te Mata Peak.

The controversial walking track up the Eastern side of Te Mata Peak. Photo: RNZ / Anusha Bradley

Ngāti Kahunugunu iwi leader Ngāhiwi Tomoana penned a scathing open letter to Craggy Range Winery director Mary-Jeanne Hutchinson about the racist attitudes shown by the winery.

It comes in the face of the winery's decision to build a zig-zag walking track on Te Mata Peak last year.

The winery promised in December to remove the track but last week it released an expert land report saying remediation would never get the land back to its original condition.

Mr Tomoana said the winery was trying to frighten the iwi with legal action.

"Again we are not intimidated by this behaviour or that of the 'charge of the Lycra Bridgade' who have resorted to personal attacks on our people who don't have the luxury of mountain bikes mounted on the latest SUVs," he said.

Protestors gathered at the weekend protesting the winery's actions.

Mr Tomoana said if the current manager, barrister and director were left in charge of the matter - then he wanted the name Ngāti Kahungungu to be "melted or removed" from the commemorative opening plaque.

Craggy Range opened in 1997 with a ceremony attended by Sir Edmund Hillary and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.

Mr Tomoana said over the past 20 years, he had formed a close bond with Mrs Hutchinson's parents and others - but that relationship was now put to a severe test.

"The track has not only put a scar on our maunga, but has driven a chasm in our community that has brought the worst of racist and class comments to the fore."

The winery's director Mary-Jeanne Hutchinson said she would always take Ngāhiwi's call in person, not through the media.

Craggy Range Winery chief executive Mike Wilding said the winery has not threatened legal action at all.

Mr Wilding said should mana whenua and Hastings District Council not be able to agree between themselves to any of the remediation solutions put forward by independent experts - then the winery would have no option but to resort to seeing through the resource consent that was granted by Hastings District Council on 17 October 2017, which was still legally binding.

"We made this clear to Ngahiwi and other iwi leaders and Mayor Hazlehurst and council officials last Monday, 7th of May, when we gave them the details of the legal assessment we've received."

Mr Wilding refuted Ngahiwi's claims the winery was fanning racial tensions.

"Our entire focus is on delivering the best solution for the community, but we cannot implement one that our experts have advised leaves the landscape and community in a worse position."

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs